Solo parenting may not be how you’ve always imagined parenthood, but it’s an option that many people go for.

Being a mum or dad may be something that you’ve wanted all of your life, but maybe you’ve not been with the right person at the right time. Perhaps having a partner isn’t something you want and you would prefer to raise a baby alone. If you are a woman and aware that your biological clock is ticking, maybe you’ve decided that the right time is now and that you’d rather parent alone than leave it too late. Maybe you are a man without a partner and you want to have a child with a genetic connection to you.

There are numerous reasons why people decide to parent without a partner and a number of ways in which this can be achieved with assisted reproductive techniques (ART). 

As a single woman, what options are available to help me to conceive?

There are various options open to you. If you have had fertility tests and there are no obvious barriers to conception, then a popular choice is to have IUI (intrauterine insemination). IUI involves sperm being inserted around the optimum time for conception. If you have blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, you may be advised to have IVF instead. Both IUI and IVF can be performed using donor sperm, either from someone you know or from a sperm bank. The sperm will be screened first, to check for infection or genetic disorders.   

If you have your own eggs but are unable to carry a baby to term, then surrogacy may be an option for you, however, in the UK, parental rights rely on the surrogate agreeing to sign over rights after the birth of the baby. To take away the risk of the surrogate changing her mind, many people choose a surrogate who is living overseas, from a country where a surrogacy agreement is legally enforceable, with automatic parental rights. 

Another option is co-parenting, where, rather than having a sperm donor, you could choose to conceive using sperm from a man who will have parenting rights too. It’s important to look into your legal rights when using donor sperm or a surrogate or where you are entering into a co-parenting agreement. 

Wanting to be a parent when you are single

As a single man, what options are available for me to have a child of my own?

Surrogacy would allow you to have a child where you will be the biological father. If you have healthy sperm, then IUI (intrauterine insemination) is the most straightforward option. You would need to provide a sperm sample, which will then be washed and the healthiest sperm selected to be inserted via a thin tube into the surrogate. If your sperm show any weakness in terms of motility, for example, then you may be advised that IVF would increase your chances of fathering a child.

If you choose a surrogate in the UK who has no spouse or legal partner, you may be able to be named as the baby’s legal parent at birth, otherwise, you would be relying on the surrogate agreeing to sign a parenting order after the birth. Many people choose to have a surrogate who is living overseas in a country where parental rights are automatic, once a surrogacy agreement has been signed.

A co-parenting agreement is another option, where you may choose to conceive with a single woman and agree on the amount of time each of you will have with your child. It’s important to look into your legal rights when using a surrogate or where you are entering into a co-parenting agreement. 

As a single person, do I qualify for NHS treatment?

In Scotland and Wales, the NHS offers fertility treatment with fewer exemptions than in England, where local clinical commissioning groups can impose additional exemption categories. In some cases, as a single person, you will have to prove that you are infertile by undergoing 6 or more self-funded IUI treatments, before qualifying for treatments on the NHS.

Where can I get more advice and support?

Here at The IVF Network, we provide information and support through our dedicated channel of experts, our website and our blog posts, to help you to make informed choices on your own fertility journey.

There are also groups, such as the ones listed below, who can offer advice and support on solo-parenting: 

SPSAS Single Parents Support and Advice Service  

Advice and Support – Gingerbread